26 June 2012

Guys On Film

Photo by Libby Csulik.
Or rather: guy. Or rather: me. Last Sunday I attended, in a little bar in Williamsburg, the screening of Android Insurrection. You may recall my experience filming Android Insurrection a little over a year ago (see 5/11/11). In that time the director has dropped us completed acts here and there through Vimeo, and the whole thing was off to the presses (They use presses still, right?) in the spring, but this was my first time really seeing the fruit of our labors. This was in fact my first time seeing myself die on screen.

Actors often mention in interviews that they are loathe to see their own performances. The reasoning is often offered that all we can see is the mistakes, but I think it goes a layer or two deeper than that. There's a dissonance between what we perceive of ourselves, and what is objectively observable by a camera. It's similar to the response most people have when they hear their recorded voice. The view from the inside is just too subjective to immediately match with what other people perceive.

So there was a lot of that. I did, I have to admit, come out of the screening vowing never, ever to have my mouth open in performance again unless I was speaking. There was also a more positive response, here and there. I may not have a face that sucks one in, but neither is it loathed by the camera (if only I could slice out this weird, Willsian slope to my neck/chin [my nin; my check] area) and once or twice during filming, I fancy I managed to contribute something useful to the storytelling with my eyes.

There was also the more introspective consideration, as I sipped my vodka tonics and laughed at the sheer balls-ery of some of the movie's moments. I was watching myself of a year ago run around a warehouse in new Jersey, before I acted in Sacred Ground, before I had been to Seattle, before I had this new job and a baby girl on the way. The idea that you can never step into the same river twice felt very real indeed during this experience, which proverb stands as a lovely contrast to such lines as, "I only care about you and me making it out of here alive. Me, because I only care about me. And you, because I'm gonna kill you once we get out."

And the movie? Well, there's one word that describes this movie, and that word is: Art. Pure art. Which would of course be two words, so you can choose either - "art," or "pure." One of them is the only one to describe Android Insurrection. Well, also "movie," I suppose. I mean, if you want to be technical about it, there are probably several words that can, together or of a piece, describe my cinematic debut. At some point soon, I may have a private screening for a select few adjective-makers, and leave them to label it.

The thing that's great for me about doing this movie is that it fulfilled something for me, a childhood fantasy, and it not only did so but it did so with a positivity and lightness of which I consider myself very lucky to have been a part. When the screening was over, Friends Nat and Virginia and I, and eventually Joe and Libby, enjoyed one another's company for as far as we could manage on the trips to our respective homes. It was a fitting reward for a job...well: fun.

Sadly, in spite of having acquired an American distributor, Android Insurrection is not yet for sale in these United States, and so I can't link to it for you. If you'd like a copy dubbed into Thai, I understand that may be possible at this time using something called an "Internet." Happily, there is the "party video," edited by the inimitable Maduka Steady. I emphatically encourage you to enjoy:

Android Insurrection Party Video from Andrew Bellware on Vimeo.

19 June 2012

Be a Hero

When I was in high school, one of the first stories I wrote - the one that started the creative-writing ball for me in earnest, as a matter of fact - was one set in a not-too-distant future. Now-a-days the half-finished story would be an easy fit into the all-too popular "dystopian" niche, but at the time I wasn't thinking of it as such. I just imagined a world in which priorities had aligned a bit differently. It was about a reporter who goes to live amongst a secret leper colony, established on an island off the eastern seaboard, but the thing that sticks with me the most these years later was an idea I had about the culture of the city from which he came.

The idea was that everybody smoked. Everybody smoked, indoors and out, and they did so because the popular opinion was that air pollution had gotten so bad that it was safer to inhale through a cigarette's filter. Something like: the smoke conditioned one's lungs to handle the much-worse stuff in the air, and inhaling through the filter helped keep the majority of that worser stuff out. I justified it by suggesting the "doctor recommended" smoking ads of the '50s had won out, but it worked for me as the storyteller by making everyone a little distant, a little coarse and plenty short-sighted.

Now occasionally I wonder if I just got the wrong orifice. Ray Bradbury, may he rest in peace, in 1953 imagined these far-fetched tiny "seashells" the folks wore in their ears to hear entertainment anywhere. These were all a part of an imagined, self-isolating technology that we were irresistibly drawn to, which included wall-sized television screens and self-prescribed medication, and I'm ashamed to admit that I willingly use so-called "ear-buds" as such every single day. Nothing's so good an excuse to avoid survey-takers and the homeless - heck, even normal people! - as those handy, dandy ear-buds. And just look at how pocket computers help with eye contact!
Found here. See how happy they are not to see you?
 I indulge in this side-effect willingly. I'm grateful for it. Thank God, say I, for my iDevice, and its music and pod-casts and games and even occasionally sometimes if I can be reminded of it connectivity to productive tasks. Furthermore, I'm not writing here to lament this turn in human interaction. True, there are plenty of trade-offs. Yes, I fantasize about a badminton racket reserved solely for knocking the device from the hand of anyone trying to walk and tweet simultaneously. Yes, I'm reading less and have a shorter attention span. And, yes, I want more people than just the local lunatics to hear me if I scream for help. But also: Music! Games! Blocking out the God-awful continuous hammering of street construction! I am fervently all-for the critical resource of my mobile device.

However. There is a finer point of urban etiquette for which I make exception to my electronic enthusiasm. It has to do with a naturally artificial social situation we call The Subway.

I am not going to tell you to turn down your salsa music. Blare it out of the vibrations of your skull! I am not going to tell you to stop hugging the pole to maintain balance while playing Draw Something. Get that palate enormous, and three coins for Gryffindor! I am not even going to tell you to start taking your seashells from out your ears. Leave your seashells in. You are a beautiful mer-maid/man, and you glisten with the rapture of this week's Epic Meal Time.

I am going to tell you this: Open your eyes. And one more thing: Especially if you are fortunate enough to have a seat.

The Subway is a miserable solution to a miserable problem. No one - apart from the aberrant tourist - is pleased to be there when they're on The Subway. The best solution, the only and final solution, is to zone right the heck on out. ZONE, SON. You can get miles away, especially if you have those magic ear-shells. And maybe you are on there at five in the morning, and your hour-long commute is going to make the napping difference between a good day and an impossible one. And maybe you are coming off a fourteen-hour nursing shift, and the only thing that makes sense is bending your legs, just for a few minutes. And maybe it's just the stress (God, the stress) that makes you want to hold yourself and rock during the one period of your day when no one expects anything from you. I get it, and I'm with you, and I'm in the ZONE.

But open your eyes. This isn't the zombie apocalypse, despite what you've heard on the news lately, and the dog-eat-dog world isn't applicable to mass, underground transportation. Here is where the humanity is needed most. Here is where you can toss a token (so much more poetic than a MetroCard) and it will be quickly caught by someone looking longingly at something about the bounty of your position. Because we're all lucky to have what we have, and we're all here for one another. It shouldn't take a catastrophe to remind us of that - just a little gratitude, held in your heart for these moments when you have a chance to help.

So, please: Keep your eyes open. For the nurse, if you're a napper. For the napper, if you're a caffeine addict like me. For the guy on crutches, who'll argue with you for a little while about it. For the lady in heels (maybe she has to wear them for some reason). For the elderly. For the family. That makes you a hero, for the littlest while. But who knows? It may also help you reconnect a bit before you go back to conquering the world on your cell phone.

And just one final and specific point I'd like to make in closing. Some might argue that it is the entire purpose of my meandering exposition, and some of those same may accuse me of out-dated modes of thinking, but I will have my point made regardless. If you are male, between the ages of 13 and 60, and of reasonable fitness, and have the benefit of a seat when a pregnant woman enters the subway car, give up your seat. Right. The fuck. Now.